What Former Computer Science Students Say
While still in school, many Carroll computer science students have the opportunity to work part-time in state government, at local high-tech firms as programmers or as network support specialists. Some students have on-campus technical support jobs, while still others volunteer with non-profit organizations.
There are also frequent summer opportunities in research around the country as well as paid internships in business and government.
In their own words (what former students say):
At SoFi I've primarily been focused on data-centric projects, spending the better part of my tenure here on the Data Warehouse team, both as an ETL developer and, later, as manager. Last year I transitioned to lead the application that sells the loans SoFi originates, because I could get my hands back into coding as well as dig deep into our data. It's both thrilling, and scary, to see your application handling transactions that climb into the billions of dollars.
Where I really saw the benefit of a Carroll education was at graduate school. Going in, I felt concerned I would be out of my depth compared to students from larger institutions, but quite the opposite was true. The liberal arts education at Carroll gave me a significant advantage in the mathematics, writing, and general problem solving skills needed for graduate school. Where I saw many students struggling in these areas, I could really sink my teeth into the rigors of the program with confidence. And when we were ready to return to Helena to raise our family, networking with Carroll alums was invaluable for landing a good position in town. -- John Louie (SoFi software engineer)
The biggest news on my front: a year and a half ago, I finished my PhD in Aerospace Engineering at CU Boulder. My Carroll CS/Math majors both were tremendous helps down there -- first, because graduate-level engineering really introduces a lot of programming and high-level math (to the extent that I had less of a hill to climb than students who had majored in aerospace itself as undergrads), and second, because aerospace is the "jack of all trades" of the engineering disciplines (you have to know a little control theory, a little electronics, a little fluid dynamics, a little programming, a little structural stuff ... etc.) which made my time at a "comprehensive" college (does Carroll still call itself that? I mean, as a shorthand for "both liberal arts and technical"?) very valuable -- I was used to juggling very diverse subject matters. -- Ben Dunham (Ph.D. student)
After I graduated from Carroll College, I went to Humboldt State University where I received a M.S. in Environmental Systems Mathematical Modelling. There I built a cellular automata model in MATLAB to simulate wild forest fires actively spotting (and got published). After a 6 month hiatus, I went to The University of Miami - Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science where I received a Ph.D. in Marine Biology and Fisheries. Do not let the degree fool you, for my dissertation I worked on developing a marine ecosystem simulation model called Atlantis (https://research.csiro.au/atlantis/) for the Gulf of Mexico (publications pending). I enjoyed the challenges of Atlantis so much, I am now working on the further development and use of the Nordic and Barents Seas Atlantis model at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway.
Without a doubt, my education from Carroll College helped immensely. The things I learned at Carroll provided the foundation to the knowledge I needed to pursue the future I had yet to realize I wanted. I believe I would not be where I am without the education, support, and mentoring from all of my professors at Carroll. And for that I am deeply grateful. -- Holly Perryman (Institute of Marine Research in Norway)
Daniel was recently accepted into the University of Florida Ph.D. program in Computer Science program to work with one of the top research groups in the nation, the Florida Institute of Cyber Security. Daniel says, “I can’t thank Carroll College enough for the helping me get to this opportunity. Over the past four years, Carroll College pushed me academically, created many research opportunities, and developed my mind, body, and spirit that made me a top applicant. I will forever be grateful for everything Carroll has done for me. Although I’ll be wearing blue and orange, I will always bleed purple and gold. Proud to be a Saint. Go Gators! Go Saints!” -- Daniel Olszewski (Computer Science class of 2019), class president.
Side note: Daniel served as president of ASCC last year and he discovered another key interest at Carroll which was our theatre program. “I was the Snail in A Year With Frog and Toad. Theatre quickly became a passion of mine and I found myself in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, then My Fair Lady. While I loved being in all shows, my passion has been in children’s theatre. The Little Mermaid last year was an exciting adventure and I get to end my Carroll theatre experience in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Computer Science students are not one dimensional.”
After graduating Carroll, I started working at State of Montana as a Computer Programmer, after my Security Analyst Internship prior to graduation. For several years that role involved developing `and maintaining a large Oracle platform and database administration, and Linux/AIX/some Windows administration. Over the years my position title changed with increase of these kinds of systems, in addition to also working the State's document imaging system. My education at Carroll really helped my success there because each project involved some level of project management and documentation, which Carroll's well rounded liberal requirements helped me to write well technically and be able to manage teams and projects effectively. My tenure at the State ended with me leading a team of engineers, while also contributing on large projects. Data was always the portion of the projects I enjoyed most, so when I got the opportunity to go to Sofi as a Data Engineer, I took it. And here I am 4 years later, as a Senior Data Engineer.
Outside of that, my hobby is teaching (and taking) exercise classes at Crossroads. Over the years I have expanded that bit by bit, so I teach 4 different programs. I started off just exercising after a few years at the state becoming sedentary and overweight. I found it became important to balance my IT desk job with something else, so I wasn't working around the clock (as I did at State) to keep healthy life. 5 years and 75 pounds later, I continue to work hard to balance, as a healthy work/life balance is important and we become work-a-holics so easily in IT. I didn't recognize that at first, but I get it now.
I always tell people how great Carroll is. You get such a well-rounded education that serves so well for interpersonal interaction in the workplace, coupled with the best IT professors. I am really a proponent of liberal arts education as interpersonal communication is so important to being successful in a career. I have seen it a lot engineers that are great a certain IT aspects, but their lack on people skills is a detriment. Carroll does a fantastic job of balancing that so students are well rounded for a successful career. -- McKinley Gunter (SoFi software engineer)
I learned one of my most important lessons in college from Mr. Hagen. I stopped by before class one day to mention that I needed to skip his class, because I was behind in another class and really needed to finish up some work. I had somehow gained the impression that he would understand and commiserate with my predicament. This was not so. Mr. Hagen was not amused. He stared into my eyes and said something to the effect of "Why is it my problem that you are behind? I show up every day no matter what. Why can't you?" Those were not his exact words, of course, but you get the impression. It really opened my eyes to the fact that I'm responsible for my own work, and that a sob story won't cut it. It was Real World lesson right there in his office. Really stuck with the whole "Not just for school, but for life" credo of Carroll's. -- Karl Frey (Stormwater360)
I am currently working at etailz as the Lead Business Analyst / Software Engineer (UI/UX Specialist). I get to design the proprietary software for our company as well as help define the requirements determined by our product managers, while also leading a small team. The well-rounded education I received at Carroll has definitely supported my career growth. I am very glad to have earned a BA of CS, instead of a BS of CS. The "soft" skills were especially helpful when etailz was still considered a start-up, as my position as a software engineer encompassed all aspects of software development - not just the technical facets. My undergrad degree has acted as a spring-board to a multitude of other options that I am very grateful for! Once I complete my MBA, I am hoping for a position at an international company and would prefer to find a job located abroad. -- Kirsten Querna (etailz, Inc.)
Let's go back about 6 years ago. I was working at CourtView Justice Solutions (MAXIMUS) and kind of tired of living in Helena, so I jumped on Linkedin and found a couple of opportunities down in Boise that looked interesting, I interviewed and was offered a job (that I accepted) at WireStone. They are a digital marketing company that works with large brands such as Microsoft, Boeing and HP just to name a few. The interviewing process was very intense, multiple phone interviews with coding questions and an in person interview down here in Boise. So I came on to work as a Sr. Java developer on site at the HP campus here in Boise, coming from Montana, where I thought I knew everything, to HP was a bit of a culture shock. The full team was around 30 highly skilled developers. I was overwhelming at the beginning, but it was so amazing once I got my feet under me and was accepted on the team. It was hard to prove myself as this was a very seasoned team, but I think that my education at Carroll set me up well. I had a great understanding of the software development life cycle and caught on quickly. We built an app store that was to be used with HP high-end printers.
I would like to point out that the education I received at Carroll has helped me throughout my life and it still helping with my current job at Idaho Power. GIS is something that I had no knowledge in before I started this job, but in the end it's just a database with data that you need to present to a user. We are using an Oracle database so all my Database classes with Steve still apply today! Logic to build algorithms, taught by Steve and Phil, are still used today. When talking about interfaces, I still use Steve's analogy of the interface being the menu and the implementation class being the cook's recipe. (Don't worry, I make sure to tell everyone that Steve Harper said it first!) We have a new development team at Idaho Power using Data Science, so from what I can tell Carroll is continuing to build next generation of developers and making sure they are well prepared. -- Nick Thomas (Idaho Power)
After Carroll I was accepted in the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy for one year, where I learned about business and leadership in the gaming industry. I learned a lot but ended up not being able to get a job in the industry. Instead, I came back to Montana and later went to work for the Department of Justice as a Java developer. It was a cool job! I worked with Montana Highway Patrol for the most part and did odd jobs here and there, it was a great fit.
However, I still made video games even if I wasn't in the industry. In October 2017 I released my first game on Steam, Zeran's Folly. I'm now working on a sequel and left my job with the state to work on it full-time. I'm currently in Switzerland visiting my girlfriend for a couple of months. In May we're going to exhibit my next game, Leowald, at Fantasy Basel. (Fantasy Basel is like the Swiss Comicon and there were 55k people there last year.) Pretty cool! Aside from that, I will likely join the working world again soon as a programmer to save up some more money.
Getting my degree at Carroll helped me get accepted to the DSGA and several of the classes (especially the database ones, very useful!) prepared me for my job at the State. Serving as Phil's TA also gave me a little extra clout when applying to jobs, people like stuff like that. -- Dane Bullen (game maker)
So I graduated Carroll with degrees in Computer Science and Chemistry. After leaving I worked at Pacific Northwest National Lab for about 18 months. I was then accepted into graduate school at the University of Oregon where I've worked on the conversion and storage of solar energy into stable hydrogen gas bonds. Incidentally I learned a great deal of solid state physics to be able to do this, but I also do quite a bit of numerical and analytical modeling in Python. I'm looking at graduating with my PhD this summer and I'm currently in talks with two professors in California for post-doctoral opportunities. One of them, a solar cell guy, offered me a position at UC Irvine just today! Looking to the long-term, I haven't yet been sold on the idea of becoming a professor myself. I may end up applying to lead scientist positions for research & development of solar cells and/or battery technologies after my post-doctoral stint.
My computer science education at Carroll has helped in two huge ways. First, it taught me not be scared of programming. I left Carroll with the feeling that I could rise to most any programming challenge as long as I had sufficient time to learn the language. On multiple occasion, despite lacking the initial programming expertise advertised for some opportunities, I've become involved with programming efforts because I felt I could learn the requirements. I have always been glad that I pursued these opportunities despite the initial feelings of inadequacy. It's a testament to the strength of the Carroll CS program that I had the confidence to overcome my initial inhibitions. Second, Dan Case's Adobe Photoshop class has helped me in innumerable ways. I appreciate that this class is really on the edge of computer programming, but for anyone who wants to go into academia it should absolutely be required. Thanks to that class I can make beautiful schematics that are not only visually appealing but also concisely explain the concepts in my academic papers. No month has gone by in graduate school without somebody commenting on how clean and comprehend-able my figures look. That class has improved the chances of my academic papers being submitted in top journals, it has helped me win numerous fellowships/scholarships, it has helped me win two Department of Energy grants for our lab, and it has improved my research/job talks. I couldn't appreciate the impact at the time, but in retrospect that class was phenomenal. Dan Case has a great eye for simple and aesthetically pleasing graphics; to this day I still ask myself some of the simple positioning questions that he used to ask me, when designing figures. -- Forrest Laskowski (Chemistry Ph. D.) (when at Carroll he designed a Chemistry Inventory Database that is still used)
I'm in Billings working as a programmer. We write software for fencing contractors. I've been here since graduation and eventually became an owner of the company. I get to handle a little bit of everything since we are a small company (6 people total). I do most of the PC programming, a little bit of web programming, a little work on the company website, most of the graphic work, write the product manual, occasional make software for clients, answer all the tough tech support questions and handle all the book work. I also revamped most of our literature this year. Definitely keeps me busy. It amazes me sometimes how I get to utilize so many different facets of things I learned at Carroll. I am constantly looking at old code trying to get understanding of what exactly it does. I remember talking through lots of that in your class. I took classes on technical writing and graphic design, use those often, classes in accounting, practically daily. My time at Carroll gave me a great foundation to my career. It gave me the practical skills I use on a daily basis.
I remember one of Steve's classes where we would go through code line by line to determine what it did. I have done so much of that trying to determine what code does exactly when I am trying to make changes or find a bug in the program. It is difficult at times when you are looking at someone else's code and even worse sometimes when you are reviewing your own. This is especially true of some of the stuff I wrote several years ago that is too complex for words (a sorting routine that kit-bashes several different sorting routines together, it is a mix of about 3 in all). I am actually getting much better about documenting than I use to be. It is amazing how something that was so crystal clear to you when you wrote it looks like gibberish 2 years later. -- Jenny (O’Brien) Jasper (Software Design Associates)
I am working for the State of Montana Department of Environmental Quality. I was promoted a few years ago to a Lead Computer Systems Analyst and Web Developer. I work on various C# .net applications, our DEQ website plus a variety of other projects. My main task lately is migrating our applications to the Microsoft cloud. I am our department’s main contact with Microsoft and I am working closely with Microsoft reps to learn how to take advantage of their Azure, Sharepoint Online, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 services. The end goal is for me to become a Cloud System Architect. I have also been working with three interns from Carroll. It is a refreshing experience to see the student go from shy and timid during the start of internships to becoming excellent problem solvers, and great communicators.
My time and internships at Carroll have made me a valuable tool at my department. In 2017 I won a Governor’s award for leadership and customer service because of the communication tools, problem solving skills and challenges Carroll provided me. -- Devon Bathon (DEQ and Governor’s award winner)
Before I went to Carroll I knew nothing about programming, let alone Software Engineering. With skills acquired solely from Carroll's CS department, I was able to land an internship, and make a career out of it before graduation. The most critical learning, for me, happened after class during office hours; you always seemed to have time for questions outside of class.
The variety of programming languages and platforms you taught made it easy to pick up new technologies/concepts later; i.e. it conditioned me well for meta-learning. Taking projects from start to finish has proven to be most valuable in my career -- like the old database class, where we single-handedly designed and built a database application. -- James Arasim (Microsoft software testing engineer for Windows)
With the large outsourcing endeavors in today's marketplace, trying to be just a programmer is difficult and Carroll College's forethought in this requirement ensures that Carroll alumni bring more to the table in today's job market. Furthermore, the CS faculty is as intelligent as they are forgiving and understanding. I made some mistakes in my time at Carroll and if it hadn't been for the support of the Carroll Community -- specifically the CS and other department staff -- I would not be where I am today. Carroll College offered me a chance to focus on my interests and then gave me the freedom to expand my knowledge and become even more enthusiastic in realizing my future.
Any college is what you make of it. If you go to class and make the grade you come out in four years (traditional) with a degree. This degree illustrates that one is capable of: following instructions, performing a certain level of work and focused on one area or expertise. However, when a student has the desire to learn and excel and the proper environment is available, you come out with more than a degree. You gain friendships. You develop you breadth of knowledge. You become a member of a community whose goal it is to make your better and help you find your dreams and achieve your goals. Unfortunately, not many colleges provide this community and experience.
I came to Carroll with the goal of becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. That is a lot to want when you're 18 and you really need a drive to attain that. I lacked the motivation and desire to pursue the required studies to attain that goal. The whole time I should have been studying or attending class for Zoology or General Psych I was in the computer lab just messing around. That first year when I almost failed was because I had so much fun messing with computers. Trying to figure out why certain outcomes happened when I would mess around with different settings was awesome. I cannot count the endless hours I spent in the computer lab. The Carroll Community gave me tools, resources and mentors to achieve my goals.
The basic structure of the Carroll CS Program enforced the real-world necessity of communication by requiring classes like small group communication, technical writing and basic communication. Additionally, the Program required a selection of a minor. This requirement emphasizes that Carroll College understands the increased importance to remain current in today's business and economy.
I never forget the Bilbo Baggins examples in CS 101 from Phil (I knew nothing of The Hobbit), the personal stress associated with pick your grade in Steve's project class, or the first time I sat in on a lecture by Darrell even before I joined Carroll. The degree from Carroll is comparable to a CS degree obtained from most other liberal arts colleges, but the relationships formed with the professors, the freedom to pursue what interests you and the structure of the degree program itself - are often incomparable. Success stories? I started working as a consultant at a salary that I thought was very good. Six years I was making six figures and work in New York City for one of the largest system integrator and consulting shops in the world. But, like I said, it is what you make of it. -- Jon Tomsu (Bearing Point, Manhattan, New York)
I live in St Paul, MN currently. I work for a company called Atomic Data as an engineer. We are helping put the finishing touches on Allianz Field, the new stadium for the MLS Minnesota United Football Club. -- Ben Seitz (Atomic Data)
My education at Carroll - especially the education from the computer science department - has had a huge impact on my career. Since graduating from Carroll I spent nearly 5 years with Hewlett Packard as a software engineer and continued my education at Colorado State University where I received my master's in computer science. For the past 3 years I have been working in the Salt Lake valley for Workfront, a SaaS based work management solution, as a principal software engineer. I consider myself very blessed to have the privilege of receiving an education from Carroll. -- Ryan Orth (Workfront)
I’m working at Intel Corporation as a Software Engineer in big data (in fact, it’s the same project I worked on when I traveled to Carroll to present on big data last year). The main difference now is we moved the entire project to a serverless model, ditching the Hadoop ecosystem and moving to Lambda containers. Our use case is better suited for isolated processing environments: ~1.5 million files every day that average about 30KB compressed. The concept of Mapping and Reducing still holds true though (Lambda maps and then our streaming service and AWS Redshift reduce). The benefit is our main ETL processing doesn’t run a batch process every night; everything is a continuous stream of data. Before that I worked as an ETL developer working primarily with Teradata. I use my education every day, especially topics I learned in Operating Systems, Software Development, Databases, and Business Writing. -- Stan McLenna (Intel --where he deals with 1.3 trillion records)
My experiences as a Carroll College intern and my studies have gotten me to where I am today. Carroll is a challenging school but when you graduate you are ready for any type of job opportunity that comes your way. I'm very grateful for deciding to attend Carroll. -- Alysa Eaton (Programmer Analyst/Webmaster, Montana Legislative Services)
Overall, I think that the Carroll CS/math department really prepared me well for the graduate work I'm doing now (PhD in Math and Masters in CS). After being a TA at a large university, I realize now how unique it is to be able to work so closely with professors like we do at Carroll. At Carroll, I always felt more like I was part of a CS/math "community" than a "department." That's something that I'm finding not a lot of schools can offer. -- Ted Wendt (Ph.D. student at the University of Iowa)
With my Japanese language proficiency and what I learned in Carroll I got hired last fall, and now I am in Tokyo, Japan as a system engineer. I don't know I can say this is success but I am really enjoying what I am doing here... I can't still forget your helpful advice each time we finished some project. Thank you very much again. -- Kyoung-Jin Kim (System Engineer, Carrot Tokyo, Tokyo)
At this point in my career, I've been in some great positions because of my degrees from Carroll (English and CS). I began as technical writer for Fred Meyer, where my easy familiarity with complex systems, stemming from my experience at Carroll, helped me immensely. From there I went into Localization Coordination (software string and collateral translation) at Hewlett-Packard Corp. I also did some technical writing there. Next came Intel Corp, where I contracted for a year as a technical writer and then a project manager. Now, my title is Technical Writer and MarCom Specialist at a company called Stormwater360 (formally known as Stormwater Management, Inc.) a progressive, innovative company with a mission to preserve and protect water resources worldwide.
My Carroll education has helped me a lot at my current job. When I started, I was responsible for the planning, purchasing, layout, and effectiveness of all the advertising for the company. You can see our ads in Civil Engineering, Waterworld, Water & Wastes Digest, Stormwater magazine, and a host of others. We needed some way to track all the customer response from the 'bingo cards' that are in most of the magazines. That way we could ascertain ROI. So, we used Access and built a database to track all the information. Harper's 400 level database class came in very useful here, and I found all the relationship (many to many, one to one, one to many) training coming back, along with the mantra drilled into us to plan the all the relationships and tables BEFORE we started coding. Boy, did that help. We ran into all sorts of questions we hadn't even thought of yet, which helped us flesh out the true usage and plan for the future use. I routinely use reports from the database to justify spending to my boss.
I have the ability to understand quickly where a glitch is coming from, because I've been educated on what's happening in the background of the computer's guts. If fact, I've been the go-to guy in all my jobs for this kind of thing, and I have Carroll, its teachers, and its computer labs to thank for that. -- Karl Frey (Stormwater360)